At the top of a Singapore skyscraper, in 2015, Garbiñe Muguruza wonders if the successes and fame he is discovering – he has already played his first final at Wimbledon and has won the Beijing title – will transform him.
“And why would I change?”, Denies the Spanish, then an effervescent sensation of 22 years who has achieved a place in the semifinals of the Teachers’ Cup, rubbing shoulders with the strongest of the circuit. Then the revolution will come: first Roland Garros and, now, Wimbledon in the showcase and later the rise to the top of the circuit as number one. And today, at 28 and with an already important baggage behind her back, “more mature”, she returns to exactly the same point. Not in Singapore, but in Mexico’s Guadalajara. At 1,566 meters of altitude. Making history.
Six years later, Muguruza (double 6-4 to Anett Kontaveit) is once again on the poster of the semifinals of the master tournament and does so, in addition, along with Paula Badosa. Both, therefore, will star this Tuesday (21.00, Tdp / DAZN) in a double event to frame, since two Spanish players had never met in a Masters and the last and only time they had reached the final was in 1993, when Arantxa Sánchez Vicario yielded at Madison Square Garden in New York against the prodigious German Steffi Graf, who was crowned that day after four sets.
“1993? The year I was born! ”, Exclaims the world’s top five, who has previously resolved the duel with heads or tails against the Estonian Kontaveit, forced to win yes or yes to achieve the pass because Karolina Pliskova has defeated Barbora Krejcikova before and the bills tighten. But she wins, advances alongside Kontaveit – ranked in advance, thanks to her two previous victories – and the Czechs say goodbye. “It is something extraordinary and shows the level at which Spanish tennis is. It will be fun ”, anticipates the Caracas.
Although her career has taken several turns and she has been practicing since the seniority granted by her close thirties, Muguruza is still, in essence, the same girl from the Singapore tower. Then he signed a plenary session in the group stage – against Lucie Safarova, Angelique Kerber and Petra Kvitova – and ran into the web of Agnieska Radwanska, later champion, in the semifinals. Now, she says, she looks better prepared and logically more done – “experience is key, I know when to save energy and I am trying to be less emotional” – and she will face a rival with whom she shares a similarity: none is half inks and both like to pilot the games.
Both right-handed, with a plant –1.83 she, by the 1.80 of Badosa– and carved in the school of Barcelona, they usually rule the duels from the baseline and as soon as they can show their fangs. “If you see the rest of the Spanish players, none of them play the way Garbiñe does or the way I do,” emphasizes the one from Begur, who last night, when she turned 24, sealed the group stage with an inconsequential defeat against the Polish Iga Swiatek ( 7-5 and 6-4), saving batteries; “Honestly, today I was thinking about tomorrow’s game and if I could have, I wouldn’t have played. I have tried to try new things and not wear myself out ”.
“At some point I had to play against Paula and if it’s here, better than better, because it’s more special. We are making history and this will be remembered. I’m happy for her. He has always been talented and is playing in an incredible way. In tokyo [donde coincidieron en los Juegos] We got to know each other more and it seems that she has found a way to make everything fit, ”says Muguruza, who if she progresses to the final will automatically close the season on the podium, like number three in the WTA. The last time he held that position was in July 2018.
“I have grown up seeing Garbiñe. Since I was 17 years old, I dreamed of being like her and winning what she has won, but I still don’t have her level, ”she explained before the Badosa tournament began. “I’m getting closer and here for the moment, which is an honor for me. But she is a mirror. When he appeared he broke all the schemes. A game like this was not common in a Spanish woman, so dynamic and so aggressive. She is tall, different. My favorite. He has a game that I love ”, praised the Catalan, tenth in the ranking.
From power to power, these days both are following in the footsteps of Arantxa and Conchita Martínez, who paraded through the Masters in 13 and 12 editions, respectively. The Barcelona and the Aragonese – today witnessing everything on the front line, from the Muguruza bench – met for the last time at the 2000 Masters and now Muguruza and Badosa converge, in search of what only two national tennis players achieved in the individual format: Manolo Orantes (1976, in Houston, against Wojtek Finak) and Alex Corretja (1998, in Hannover, against Carlos Moyà).
In Mexico, then, send the party to the Spanish.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.